James Lowe hopes for Irish highs against Italy

James Lowe hopes Ireland’s new-look back three can light up Dublin after being recalled for Sunday’s Guinness Six Nations clash with Italy.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 26th February 2022, 9:00 am

Leinster wing Lowe returns to Andy Farrell’s starting XV as part of six personnel changes, having missed the opening two rounds of the championship due to a hamstring injury.

His inclusion on the left flank sees Mack Hansen switch to the right to make a third successive start, while uncapped full-back Michael Lowry is handed a Test debut in place of the rested Hugo Keenan.

With just nine caps, New Zealand-born Lowe is the senior international among the trio and determined to play his part in putting on a show.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell. Pic by PA.

“We’re a lot more exciting than Hugo Keenan anyway,” he joked, when asked about the rejigged backline.

“I’ve watched Lowry from afar and had to defend against him, he creates something out of nothing and he’s been doing it at training.

“His skillset is very good. It’s something I probably didn’t appreciate until I was outside (training). He’s rapid. He’s quick. All of a sudden he can turn it on.

“And Mack has been X-factor since he arrived. No one questioned his ability to finish and that’s what he’s done for these last two games.

“We’ve trained very, very well this week, we’re looking forward to it.

“We’ve sat down, talked things through, ironed things out. We’re looking forward to the challenge that Italy presents and hopefully some running rugby.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be back in a new-look back three and I’m excited.”

Ireland are bidding to return to winning ways after a 29-7 win over reigning champions Wales was followed by a gripping 30-24 loss in France.

While fellow Leinster player Keenan will not be involved this weekend – ending a run of 18 consecutive Test starts – he has remained heavily involved in preparations.

“He’s pretty much the brains for us, I’m not going to lie,” Lowe said of Keenan.

“He’s a dude who will be going through all the clips that Simon (Easterby, defence coach) sends in.

“He does a lot and that filters through to all of the back three.”

Lowe returned from his recent spell on the sidelines by making a try-scoring cameo for his province in last weekend’s 29-7 win over Ospreys in the United Rugby Championship.

The 29-year-old is eager to make up for lost time.

“I literally pulled my hamstring the day before the Six Nations squad was announced, so that wasn’t fun,” he said.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself for the last four weeks to make sure if I was lucky enough to be called back up that I would be in the best possible shape that I could be to give myself the best opportunity.

“Throughout my rehab, it wasn’t just making sure my hammy was right, it was getting the rest of my body right and making sure my skills (were right).

“I always knew I would be back around this time and I just had to make sure that I put my best foot forward.”

Italy arrive at the Aviva Stadium seeking to avoid a 35th consecutive championship defeat.

Persistent debate about the Azzurri potentially being kicked out of the competition was last week quashed by tournament organisers.

Lowe – who played alongside Italy internationals Monty Ioane, Hame Faiva and Toa Halafihi in his homeland – supports that decision.

“I firmly don’t think that (Italy should be removed),” he said “When I saw that, I thought that was stupid. That was silly.”

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